Archive for February, 2009

French Guantanamo detainees’ convictions quashed.

Posted in Translation on February 26, 2009 by belfasttobrussels

In a week that has seen the return of Binyam Mohamed to the UK and the admission by John Hutton that Britain has been complicit in extraordinary rendition, this report shows the failings of introducing mediaeval practises into civilised justice systems. Mohamed’s detention on return, under anti-terrorism legislation, leads to the question of the validity of statements made after alleged sustained torture.


The ‘Guantanamo Five’ acquitted on appeal in Paris

Yesterday evening [24/02/09], the five Frenchmen released from the American detention centre in 2004 and 2005 had their convictions quashed.

On 19th December, 2007, Judge Jean-Claude Kross, presiding over Paris’ 16th Magistrate’s Court, had condemned Brahim Yadel to a five-year custodial sentence, four of which were suspended; Nizar Sassi, Mourad Benchellali, Redouane Khalid and Khaled ben Mustapha were given four-year sentences, three of which were suspended. Another former detainee, Imad Kanouni, was acquitted.

In Tuesday’s judgement, the Court of Appeal rejected the statements made by the five men under interrogation by the French intelligence services at Guantanamo in January and February 2002, and January 2004, considering the latter’s actions to have been undertaken under an intelligence mission and not under the detective branch of policing [PJ]. As the prosecution rested only on these statements, the convictions were quashed.

By way of reminder: from July 2001 onwards, the accused had all followed more or less the same route: Paris, London, Lahore or Jalalabad in Pakistan, Kabul, Kandahar to Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. The six young Frenchmen, Mourad Benchellali, Nizar Sassi, Brahim Yadel, Imad Achab Kanouni, Khaled ben Mustapha and Redouane Khalid were intercepted in Afghanistan by American troops, then incarcerated in the prison camp in Cuba for several years.

The incriminating evidence was obtained in violation of the law.”

If the individuals were indeed the footsoldiers of violent Islamicism, the affair took an unusual, even scandalous turn when the DST [French Counterintelligence Agency] suddenly became involved, at first in secret. A secrecy unveiled during the first judicial session of July 2006, which came to a sudden end as the defence had not had access to many of the DST’s notes, on which the prosecution rested.

The discovery led the Judge to adjourn proceedings to gather more information.

The incriminating evidence was obtained in violation of the law,” said an outraged Philippe Meilhac, lawyer for ben Mustapha. “In particular, in violation of the right to defend oneself against accusations, which allows any individual under interrogation, in detention or custody, to enjoy the basic procedural rights of any self-respecting democracy (at a minimum, to be informed of the legal basis upon which their interrogators are acting and to be advised of their rights, including to silence, to consult a lawyer and to see a doctor).

Moreover, truthfulness is considered a fundamental principal of French law, established as such in many judicial decisions.

The public prosecutor has appealed the decision.


European privacy law being revised by Americans

Posted in Translation with tags on February 24, 2009 by belfasttobrussels

This article from Bug Brother, a French blog similar to Henry Porter‘s warnings on civil liberties on Comment is Free, looks at the revision of the EU Directive concerning the right to privacy in the digital age.  Note the UK’s role as the only country without opposition to the US-centric composition of the group revising the directive, and previous information-sharing agreements between the EU and US.

European’s Right to Privacy to be ‘revised’ by… Americans

The European Directive on the protection, and “free movement”, of personal information dates from 1995. Since then, the internet has become dramatically bigger, as have the number and usage of files and the interconnection between them, as much by private enterprise as by governments and police.

The European Commission has thus decided to begin a process of revising the Directive, and to that end has appointed a group of experts, so as to respond to “the challenges of protecting personal information in the European Union, in view of the development of new technologies, globalisation, and questions of public security.”

But according to Alex Türk, President of the CNIL [French Commission for IT & Personal Freedoms] and of the G29, which groups all 27 of its European counterparts, the process may be subverted:

The composition of this group of experts raises extremely serious questions. It is, in fact, composed of five people, of whom four have a background in American businesses or law firms, whose headquarters are also in the United States. Only one member of the group is of European origin.

Having expressed to the European Commission my surprise at the composition of the group, the reply was that the issue surpasses that of nationality and, in particular, that it was important to find suitably-qualified experts.

Commisioner Jacques Barrot, who I met, acknowledged that the situation was exceptional. He proposed the idea of blending this group of experts into a wider consultation. To date, however, I have had no confirmation that this idea is to be implemented.

I must stress that my position is shared by the authorities of all the other member states, with the exception of the United Kingdom. In addition, I now know that the agenda of this group has already provoked internal debate between, on the one hand, the representative of the working group on Article 291 and, on the other side, the American experts, who had reached prior agreement.”

The situation is all the more comical, or problematic, because the US has “neither an independent oversight institution, nor a constitutional law, which are the two basic requirements of the European Commission and the Article 29 working group.”

In other words, experts representing a country which itself does not respect the fundamental criteria for the Right to Private Life, as implemented in Europe, are charged with revising the legal framework of our Right to Private Life and to suggest proposals to improve, or more probably, update it…

The French Senate’s Commission for European Affairs, judging “unacceptable” the composition of the group, has had a hearing with Alex Türk and, at his request, has proposed a European Resolution2. They are in shock:

Is it reasonable to entrust to these American experts the proposal of a legal concept to the European Commission, harmonising the American vision and the European vision? Must we accept that it is not possible to find suitably-qualified European experts?”

The answer often lies in the question…

1(29) Whereas the further processing of personal data for historical, statistical or scientific purposes is not generally to be considered incompatible with the purposes for which the data have previously been collected provided that Member States furnish suitable safeguards; whereas those safeguards must in particular rule out the use of the data in support of measures or decisions regarding any particular individual;

2Consequently, the Senate calls upon the Government:

– to request from the European Commission details of the conditions under which this group of experts was appointed, and to make representations in order that the proposals to be considered for any development of the legal framework around the protection of personal information in the European Union are agreed under conditions, which preserve the independent analysis of the European Union in the evaluation of its own laws and respect the principal of multilingualism;

– to oppose any proposal by the European Commission which has not been developed according to these conditions.

The eurozone safety net & how banks work against small nations

Posted in Translation on February 22, 2009 by belfasttobrussels

This fascinating interview looks at the mechanisms of selling and managing public debt during this period.  It is of particular interest following the threats to downgrade Ireland’s credit rating – but offers consolation in that regard.  An extremely informed analysis of why Europe gains safety in numbers, providing arguments around the ‘solidarity mechanism’ idea that would offer much to an imperilled Irish economy.

40 jobs Northern Ireland could do without

Posted in On Northern Ireland with tags on February 22, 2009 by belfasttobrussels

40 jobs Northern Ireland could do without

By Damian O’Loan

The announcement of 40 jobs at a time of recession seems like good news. These, though, come at the expense of the tax-payer, following the £200m contract awarded to Thales in January. £5m per job may not seem like particularly good value for money. Protectionism, though, is being avoided as only half of Thales is in British hands, with 27.1% held by the French government. Thales also has a subsidiary in partnership with Raytheon, accused of supplying arms to Israel later used in war cimes.

The deal does highlight an interesting footnote in the history of the modern Troubles though, one which perhaps explains the lack of reaction from the First Minister Peter Robinson. The footnote makes clear some of the risks that accompany the contract, and may prove rather embarrassing to a man who vowed never to speak to terrorists.

The £200m will allow Thales, located in Robinson’s East Belfast constituency, to supply part of the Starstreak missile system to the Ministry of Defense. The Starstreak system replaces its predecessor, the Javelin, which was produced by Shorts in Belfast. Shorts, after becoming a PLC, being sold to Bombardier and merged with Thomson-CSF, evolved into Thales Air Defence Limited in 2001.

The models for the Javelin short-missile system were stolen from the Shorts factory, which like its original Harland & Wolff owners, had a predominantly loyalist workforce. The theft was linked to the later arrests of five men in Paris, including an American arms dealer and a South African diplomat. The remaining three were from Northern Ireland, and were eventually sentenced, though they received only fines and suspended sentences.

One of the men, Noel Little, was the Armagh chairman of the Ulster Clubs, established in support of the Orange Order’s right to parade, but who were distanced when terrorist links became public – Little was arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act relating to a massive find of arms seized from the Palestine Liberation Organisation, though released without charge.

Little’s conviction in Paris was for arms trafficking and “associating with criminals involved in terrorist activities,” related to his alleged membership of Ulster Resistance, an organisation grouping loyalists in opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, signed by Thatcher and her Irish counterpart, Garret FitzGerald, and in many ways similar to the later peace agreements which now underlie the Stormont assembly, The Ulster Resistance was formed seven months after Ian Paisley announced a twelve-point plan of civil disobedience to the A-I Agreement.

At its first meeting, the main speakers were Paisley, current First Minister Peter Robinson, and Ivan Foster, now opposed to the power-sharing arrangements in place. At a later rally in Enniskillen, Robinson is reported as saying: “Thousands have already joined the movement and the task of shaping them into an effective force is continuing. The Resistance has indicated that drilling and training has already started. The officers of the nine divisions have taken up their duties.”

The DUP later broke ties with the Ulster Resistance, following the arrests of the ‘Paris Three’ – it is claimed the deal involved supplying missiles to South Africa’s Apartheid regime for use, one imagines, against Mandela’s ‘terrorist’ ANC. However, loyalist arms remain to be decommissioned, and, though it was thought that it had mutated into the LVF and died with its leader Billy Wright, the last appearance of the loose grouping was when it met with the Sunday World newspaper in June 2007.

Its statement said: “Ian Paisley has let a lot of people down and some were surprised by this, but the Uster Resistance has known for years that Paisley would always bow under pressure.” It continued: “The British government know that should we be needed, we have the capability and resources to strike with deadly force, because they know that our weaponry is not under their control.”

There are perhaps many morals to draw from this story. One is that loyalist decommissioning is urgently needed. Another may be that we are all at risk from terrorist attack, particularly valid when Israel’s policies contribute to radicalisation. Another is the subjectivity of the use of the word terrorism. Had we chosen not Starstreak missiles, but rather invested £200m in saving and growing domestic small- and medium-sized businesses, we might have avoided any hypocrisy and better served our own security, economic and moral interests.

Benedict XVI, Mr Williamson & Vatican II

Posted in Translation on February 22, 2009 by belfasttobrussels

This article, by German philosopher Kurt Flasch, examines how the rapprochement with the St Pius X Brotherhood is in fact harmonious with the Pope’s traditionalist vision for the Church.